There are a lot of Mobile Virtual Network Operators out there nowadays - so any one that’s going to stick around and remain competitive needs to have something unique to set it apart. We’ve reviewed many others, like those in our review of the best prepaid cell phone plans, Mint Mobile, Total Wireless, Simple Mobile, and more - now we have Tello Mobile set in squarely in our sights.
Tello Mobile popped onto the scene in 2015 and has evolved into an MVNO specializing not only in the standard no-contract arrangement, but as a highly-customizable option for individuals. Despite no unlimited data plan, Tello has something to offer people – if you fit the right bill.
Let’s dive in to find out if Tello will be right for you.
Tello Plans + Pricing
|Plan type||Plan||Features||Price||View plan|
|Build Your Own (sample)||With data, limited calling, unlimited text||
|Build Your Own (sample)||No data, limited calling, unlimited text||
|Build Your Own||See more options||See more options||Varies||See more options|
Tello’s cheapest plan option starts at just $5 bucks a month – the cheapest of any provider we’ve ever reviewed (T-Mobile and AT&T’s true Pay-as-You-Go plans aside). That said, at $5, you’re not getting much – just 100 minutes of talking, and no data. But texting is unlimited, so if you don’t make many calls in a month this comes out to be a really great deal.
Building from there, you can select 1 of 4 premade plans that come in 1, 2, 4, and 12GB data sizes, with unlimited talk and text all around. But Tello’s most unique trait is their fully-customizable plans. Hop over to their plans page and you’re met with a “click the arrows” menu to adjust between amounts of data and amounts of talk and text.
You get 8 options for data offerings, ranging from No Data to 12GB. For talk you get 5 options, ranging from No Minutes to Unlimited Minutes; texting is always free.
And the only MVNO to do a better price for plans? Mint Mobile – but only if you select their 6- or 12-month prepay option. Choose those, and you’ll pay either $35 a month for 6 months of 12GB a month; or $25 a month for 12 months of the same. But, by its nature, to get those prices you have to pay ahead of time for a large chunk of your year, whereas Tello is month-to-month.
The biggest plan missing from Tello’s lineup is an unlimited data option – they just don’t have one. Meanwhile, competitors like Simple Mobile do.
Contracts, fees, and other considerations
That’s one nice thing about MVNO’s, and Tello fits it: no extra charges. That includes no contract (and accompanying early termination fees), no activation fees, and no overage charges – just throttling once you pass your data limit.
You will see a few extra bucks in taxes, though – but few carriers build those in, so that’s not unusual, nor should it cost you much.
Plus, Tello includes calling to Canada, Mexico, and China in all their plans that include minutes. You’ll also get a free Wi-Fi hotspot thrown in – it’ll just come out of your allotted data for the month.
Tello lacks international service, unless you take it overseas and just utilize Wi-Fi calling on hotspots. But, if you have relatives, friends, or otherwise in other countries other than those mentioned already, you can use Tello’s Pay as You Go to call and text people there.
For example, you grab some Pay As You Go Credit, then if you have a friend in India, you’ll pay $0.01 per minute that you talk, text, or send images. Other countries, like the U.K, cost $0.03/min, and Cuba is on the (relatively) higher side at $0.065/minute.
Overall, though – not bad.
Tello Coverage + Speed
Tello Mobile runs on Sprint’s network - which can be “okay” news or poor news, depending on where you live. Sprint has consistently ranked last of the Big 4 in national studies like those run by OpenSignal and RootMetrics. However, if you live in a more metro or city area, you’ll probably be fine; but those living in rural areas - beware.
Users have reported solid text delivery and receiving, and great sound quality on calls. However, data speeds can potentially vary widely – by as much as 71Mbps at the top end for speed, down to just 2.5Mbps during busy times. That’s a huge swing in speeds – not consistent at all.
But, it sounds like most smaller functions – browsing websites, visiting Reddit, Twitter, and other social media, checking email – worked just fine without any major slowdowns. Downloading bigger data files, like updating an app, however, may cause noticeable slowdowns.
Tello Phones + Devices
Tello does sell phones, which is great if you don’t have an unlocked phone to transfer over, or you just want a completely fresh start with your provider. But don’t expect to get any of the latest models – the ones available to me when I dug through were at least 2 models back across all brands.
You can certainly still get big names like iPhones and Samsung Galaxies, but it just won’t be the newest. It’ll work fine and you can save some cash – that’s the message we got.
Tello Customer Service
All reviews point to Tello’s customer service actually being okay – so that’s great; many carriers aren’t. A lot of that probably comes from Tello’s very straightforward presentation of options for plans and pricing. Plus, the only extra fees come from taxes, which vary but are small.
Tello gives you plenty of contact options – snail mail, 3 different phone numbers, and email. Check ‘em out here.
Tello Mobile’s plans give you the option to customize how much data you want - none? Great, you can do that. 8 or 12GB, but no calling? Sure - why pay for what you won’t use? Tello’s prices beat most other MVNO’s for the GB - although if you’re willing to shell out money for 6- or 12-months of service, Mint Mobile or FreedomPop offer slightly better pricing.
Tello doesn’t offer any family plan options, so if you’re looking for that – go with someone like Total Wireless. But all in all, Tello gives individuals some great options to personalize your plan for what you need – without paying for what you don’t.
Are Tello’s phones unlocked?
Yes. All of Tello’s phones are unlocked; so if you buy one, leave Tello for another carrier, and want to bring your Tello-bought phone with you – no problem.
Can I port my phone number over?
Yes. Activate your Tello account, then contact customer service. You’ll need to have your:
- Current number
- Current provider
- Account number from that provider
- PIN or password from that provider
- Your billing address
- Your first and last name as listed on your bill
But before calling, Tello needs you to figure out what category (of 2) in which you fall:
- If you bought a Tello phone or CDMA sim, then contact Customer Support only once you’ve received them in the mail; or
- If you are bringing your own phone, and don’t need a CDMA sim, then you can skip the customer service call and just fill out the port in details as you go through the BYOP process (see below).
Can I transfer my old phone over?
Yes you can. Your phone will just need to be a CDMA phone. Use their compatibility checker here.
Does Tello have international roaming?
No, they do not. But, you can use Wi-Fi calling by using your account balance on the My Tello app.